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Japan Said To Drop Plague Fleas on China in WWII

January 14, 1993 GMT

TOKYO (AP) _ Documents found in China describe how Japanese planes dropped plague- carrying fleas as part of a germ-warfare campaign that killed hundreds of people in eastern China in the 1940s, a Japanese teacher said Wednesday.

According to the documents, more than 400 Chinese died of the plague after fleas and other contaminated objects were dropped, said Masataka Mori, who teaches social studies in a junior high school in central Japan.

In a telephone interview, Mori said he uncovered the documents at a government archives in Ningbo, a port about 90 miles south of Shanghai, while conducting research for a film on Japanese germ warfare.


Historians and former members of a Japanese secret army unit have said the unit, based in northeast China, injected war prisoners with typhus, cholera and other diseases as part of germ warfare research.

The government has never acknowledged waging germ warfare in World War II, saying records no longer exist to confirm the reports.

But Mori said one Chinese document reports more than 300 Chinese died of the plague in Yiwu, a small village about 160 miles southwest of Shanghai, in March 1942 after a Japanese plane dropped plague-carrying fleas.

Previously, only some casualties among Japanese soldiers camped nearby had been known.

Mori said a 1963 research paper by a Chinese physician, who examined the victims before they died, described 103 Ningbo residents dying of the plague three days after a Japanese airplane flew over the city on Oct. 27, 1940, releasing wheat, corn and rags that had been injected with plague germs.

Other documents showed 200 houses in Ningbo had been burned by December 1940 to prevent the disease from spreading, he said.

Mori and other historians say the flea operation was conducted as a joint project by Unit 1644 based in Nanking and Unit 731, which operated in Harbin. Unit 731 also reportedly induced gangrene, performed vivisections and froze prisoners to death in endurance tests.

In 1949, former members of Unit 1644 testified that the unit had produced plague-carrying fleas.

Asian nations accuse Japan of playing down or denying atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers during the war. The government never denied the existence of Unit 731, but never acknowledged the nature of its experiments.